Loyola Maryland men’s lacrosse loses chance for Patriot League title in 13-11 setback to No. 12 Army

By halftime of Friday night’s regular-season finale against Army West Point, Loyola Maryland men’s lacrosse had four out of eight scenarios to earn a share of the Patriot League championship and the right to host next week’s conference tournament.

As encouraging as those odds seemed, the Greyhounds were left empty-handed and wondering what could have been after succumbing to a 13-11 setback to No. 12 Army West Point before an announced 1,721 at Ridley Athletic Complex.

Loyola (7-7, 5-3) had entered the game riding a five-game winning streak, and Boston University’s rally from a 10-2 deficit with 11:02 left in the second quarter for a thrilling 13-12 victory earlier on Friday night opened the door for the Greyhounds to capture a share of their first Patriot League regular-season crown and host the conference tournament. It would’ve been the first for both since 2019.

Instead, Loyola could not solve the Black Knights (11-2, 6-2), who collected their fifth straight victory in the series. Army also split the regular-season title with Lehigh after sharing it with Boston University last spring, clinched the overall top seed and a first-round bye, and will host the league tournament’s semifinal games next Friday at 4 and 7 p.m. and the title game on May 5 at noon.

Combined with Navy’s 13-12 overtime win against Bucknell and Lehigh’s comeback 13-12 triumph over Lafayette, Loyola slid all the way down to the No. 6 seed and will meet No. 3 seed Navy (8-6, 5-3) in a quarterfinal on Tuesday at a time to be announced at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. The two teams met on April 19 with the Greyhounds escaping Annapolis with a 12-10 decision.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed that we don’t have the opportunity to have the Patriot League Tournament here and get the bye,” said graduate student attackman Adam Poitras, who led all players with six points on four goals and two assists. “But I think everybody’s kind of turning their heads to the next opportunity. It’s kind of onward and upward from here. We can’t sulk or hang our heads because that’s when we can get jumped on in the first quarter, and then we’re in real trouble. So if we have the next-play mentality that we’ve had all year, I think we’ll be just fine.”

In addition to Poitras, who registered his seventh consecutive game with a hat trick and 10th straight game of at least three points, graduate student attackman Evan James amassed three goals and one assist for his sixth consecutive game with a hat trick.

Senior attackman Reese Burek paced the Black Knights with four goals and one assist, and sophomore midfielder Evan Plunkett chipped in three goals and one assist. Junior faceoff specialist Will Coletti returned from a one-game absence to win 18 of 28 draws and scoop up a game-high seven ground balls.

“The big boys played like big boys, and I’m sitting next to one of them, one of the guys that we really counted on and have counted on for several years now,” Army coach Joe Alberici said, referring to Burek. “Reese [had] four goals and an assist with a big goal in the fourth quarter. And then Evan Plunkett looked unguardable out there to me, particularly early on. So we rode that for a little bit.”

Both goalkeepers — sophomore Sean Byrne for Army and senior Luke Staudt for Loyola — turned aside 14 shots.

The Greyhounds and Black Knights traded goals in the first quarter with neither team building more than a one-goal lead en route to a 5-5 tie. Loyola opened the next frame with goals from Poitras and graduate student midfielder Matt Heuston in 30 seconds to assume a 7-5 lead.

But Army ripped off four straight goals in 76 seconds to take their first two-goal advantage of the game. The run was anchored by goals from Plunkett and Coletti seven seconds apart.

Loyola coach Charley Toomey called that burst by the Black Knights “the real pivotal point of the game.”

“We’re up 7-5, and we give up four goals in a minute-and-a-half,” he said. “That’s one that we’ve got to own as a team and as coaches and learn from for an opportunity to stay together and go down to the Naval Academy and play another game.”

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When Poitras converted a feed from senior midfielder Davis Lindsey with 11.9 seconds left in the first half, that ended an 11:53 drought for the Greyhounds, who trailed 9-8 at halftime.

They tied the score at 10 early in the third quarter on back-to-back goals from Poitras and sophomore attackman Matthew Minicus. But the Black Knights got strikes from sophomore attackman Gunnar Fellows and Burek to keep Loyola at bay and cement the victory.

Burek said the team tried not to consider all the scenarios, including some that had Army dropping to the No. 6 seed. Now the Black Knights get to enjoy a much-needed bye and their duty as a tournament host for the first time since 2010.

“You kind of look at it, but leading up to this week, we wanted to keep the main thing the main thing, and getting a win here secures us for the [No.] 1 spot,” he said. “So leading up to it, it’s just focusing on the next opponent and the next game and keeping the main thing the main thing.”

Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal

Loyola Maryland at Navy

Tuesday, TBA